The Clairvoyant Jacket™ is somewhat of a mind reader. It somehow knows exactly how to protect women on high-alpine epics and backcountry tours while still keeping the user comfortable through a variety of conditions. But how does it know?
This is a question that is at the heart and soul of the designer departments at Outdoor Research. What makes the Clairvoyant different? How did it come about? And how, by god, can it read the backcountry’s mind?
A team of female designers, consultants, athletes and merchandisers came together to create this women’s specific jacket and what they created was a waterproof, breathable, beautiful bombshell that knows how to handle unexpected conditions. But what makes this piece for active women “the jam”?
Barbara Saunders, Melanie Sirirot, Charity Fox and Jeannie Wall were among the female designers, consultants and testers on design team, and we caught up with a couple of them to help tell the story of the Clairvoyant.
Clairvoyant: (noun) a person who claims to have a supernatural ability to perceive events in the future or beyond normal sensory contact.
The Clairvoyant wasn’t always a mind reader. In fact, she represented more of a collective consciousness of women active in the outdoors. And it all stemmed from the idea, Jeannie Wall notes, to have a wearable hard shell that was specifically designed for women.
A hard shell – that is – that worked like a hard shell, but also acted like a comfortable, breathable soft shell. And, of course, has the perfect fit.
Jeannie Wall, an accomplished climber and ski mountaineer, has been with Outdoor Research just over three years and is intimately involved with developing women’s alpine and ski designs.
“The idea came from the fact that none of us women want to wear hard shell in the Rockies,” says Wall, “cause they are stiff, boardy, hot and uncomfortable…so [we] went looking for an alternative.”
That alternative was, first, in an innovative fabric.
“The Clairvoyant was to be a partner to the Men’s Axiom,” says Barbara Saunders, a collaborator on the project, and the Axiom uses GORE-TEX® Active. A new genre of waterproof fabrics, GORE-TEX® Active is extremely breathable, waterproof and incredibly lightweight – all perfectly balanced to complement highly aerobic activities in extreme conditions. It is especially skilled at providing maximum breathability in wet conditions – like the ones you often run into in the Northwest.
“Breathability has always been a top of the list concern for extreme activity,” says Saunders, “and this fabric solves the problem without the need for mechanical venting.”
But, there was something missing. There was a lack of jackets out there that really spoke to the function and fit of the female outdoor athletes, and the design department turned again to Saunders to help.
Saunders is a Seattle-based design consultant. With years of experience designing outerwear as well as a personal background of being exceptionally active skiing, snowboarding and running, Saunders worked closely with the athletes and merchandisers in the creation of the Clairvoyant.
“My first thoughts for the Clairvoyant focused on creating a signature look but keep it minimalistic,” says Saunders.
She wanted to “create a jacket that was cut ergonomically to move with the body.”
Through this, she surmised, it would enhance the outdoor experience.
“I was able to pull ideas and solutions from my own athletic experiences but relied more heavily on the input from the team members…” says Saunders.
It was a collaborative effort, not only between the designers, but also between athletes and others in the industry that use and abuse gear. There was, that is, a lot of research (and talking) involved.
“I worked with all our women ambassadors, our dealers and many customers to find out what they wanted in a waterproof shell and what they would use it for,” says Wall.
It took a full year of doing research on the jacket and “to make sure it was right,” says Wall.
The Clairvoyant really shines as a hard shell for aerobic use in wet weather or a wet environment. Here’s what makes it work so well:
First is the fabric and construction: “The softness of the fabric, the extra breathability of GORE-TEX® Active, the quietness of it, the simplicity and lightness of design…” says Wall, is where she believes that jacket really shines. The focus was really about building a high performance women’s shell with a soft feminine fabric and feminine details.
Second, was the supreme fit: “We focused on the sleeves to create a three-dimensional cut that allowed for full extension forward and also up without pulling across the back or lifting up the hem of the jacket,” says Saunders. This makes it ideal for backcountry skiing as well as alpine climbing.
Third, were the details: “The OR athletes ensured that the pockets and other details were positioned perfectly with a backpack or harness,” says Saunders. The designers tailored the features to be activity-specific, keeping in the mind the users and the uses of the Clairvoyant in the backcountry, but still making it good looking enough for everyday use.
“We created a jacket that could be used for many things but that had a strong cross over to lifestyle appeal because of the clean, functional look.”
When put together, the jacket has all the right components.
“Women want something that fits well, wears well, looks great and gives them all the performance they expect together with something comfortable,” says Wall. And the Clairvoyant reads their minds.
Check out the Clairvoyant Jacket™ yourself. We’d love to hear what you think.